Storage Area Networks & Network Attached Storage

Mission critical applications and web sites require robust and fault tolerant storage. Storage Area Networks (SANs) and Network Attached Storage (NAS) were primarly used by the Enterprise businesses due to cost. But over the years, both technologies have steadily developed and come down in price. Small and medium sized businesses can now afford to deploy them in their infrastructure.

SANs offer high reliability in their design, thus the reason why they are so highly regarded. Reliability requirements have only gone up over time. Fifteen to twenty years ago, 99% uptime was considered high availability. This equates to over 90 hours of unscheduled downtime in a year. For some high profile businesses, being down even for a few minutes could cost them thousands of dollars. Today we are seeing 99.999% uptime with the Hitachi HDS SANs. That is an amazing 5.25 minutes of unscheduled downtime per year. Their systems are so reliable, that they may change it to 99.9999% which is 40 seconds per year. Open Innovations personally has never seen a Hitachi HDS SAN go down or off line. SANs are just becoming more and more reliable over time. SAN manufacturers are constantly adding more fault tolerant redundancy into their systems. Reliability is just going to keep increasing.

The new business technology foundation that is quickly being adopted by businesses around the world is combining SANs with Virtualization. The possibilities that these technologies bring you is just staggering. The cost savings alone has made it the premier technology foundation being deployed by businesses today.

Open Innovations has been working with SANs since 1999. First it was just Fibre Channel SANs but in recent years iSCSI has taken off and we have been working with it as much as Fibre Channel. With the advent of iSCSI, costs associated with building the SAN infrastructure have been dramatically lowered. You can now use common Ethernet switches to connect your servers to your SAN instead of using expensive Fibre Channel switches and the fiber optic cables they require. We mostly work with Hitachi HDS and AMS, EMC Isilon, Falconstor, Dell PowerVault, and Promise SANs, but occasionally do work with other manufacturers' hardware such as IBM's Shark Line.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) is another type of high availability storage that works in a generally different manner then SANs. Storage provided by a SAN is at the block level and it is used exclusively by the device that it has been allocated to. NAS on the other hand is shared storage through network filesystems such as CIFS, SMB, NFS, even FTP. NAS provides a network "share" that is available by any device that needs to access it. There are many companies that produce dedicated NAS devices, from the home/office level such as those from Netgear to those at the higher level such as NetApp. Due to the popularity of NAS devices, many SANs also offer NAS connectivity through optional features through their products.

Open Innovations has been working with NAS devices since 1998, starting out with NetApp. We have over a decade of experience in deploying NAS in many businesses. NAS devices have replaced traditional file servers and as such have been quickly embraced due to their excellent reliability.

There is still quite a lot of complexity in deploying a SAN and NAS device. Open Innovations has the many years of background and experience in design and implementation of SANs, NAS, and their respective architectures needed to properly deploy them into your infrastructure.